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First East Coast F-35B squadron attains operational capability

Photo by Akeel Austin

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, part of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), has achieved a major milestone as the first East Coast F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighter squadron in the Fleet Marine Force in achieve initial operating capacity. starting February 5.

Initial operational capability indicates that VMFA-542 now possesses sufficient operational F-35B Lightning II aircraft, trained pilots, maintenance personnel and support equipment to autonomously sustain its mission essential tasks (MET). These METs span a variety of critical operations, including close air support, offensive anti-air warfare, attack coordination and reconnaissance, and electronic attacks.

According to Lt. Col. Brian Hansell, commander of VMFA-542, the achievement of the squadron’s initial operational capability marks a significant advancement for II Marine Expeditionary Force. The F-35B Lightning II, with its advanced capabilities, provides unparalleled support to Marines against evolving threats, ensuring lethality, survivability and interoperability.


The F-35B Lightning II, a fifth-generation fighter aircraft, features advanced stealth, agility, sensor fusion and real-time access to battlespace information for the pilot. Designed to take on sophisticated adversaries, the F-35B enhances lethality, survivability and support capabilities. Its short takeoff and vertical landing capability enables operations from amphibious assault ships and expeditionary landing strips, even those less than 2,000 feet long.

Col. James T. Bardo, commander of Marine Aircraft Group 14, expressed immense pride in VMFA-542’s achievement and emphasized the unit’s exceptional dedication, ingenuity and perseverance. This milestone not only showcases the squadron’s hard work, but also highlights its rapid progression toward full operational capability and the completion of its transition to the F-35B Lightning II, a process begun in December 2022.

VMFA-542 operates under the command of 2nd MAW, which serves as the air combat element of II Marine Expeditionary Force.



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